Z is for Zaran

Well, here we are, at the end of the month, and the end of the alphabet.  I hope you’ve learned some new things about old favorites, or been introduced to some characters you might not have heard of before.

marvel.wikia.com

marvel.wikia.com

We will end the month with Zaran, the lazy alias of Maximillian Zaran.  He was originally a British mercenary, but trained in all forms of armed combat and survival skills, becoming the super villain known as the Weapon Master.  (Really, code names were not his specialty).

He fought, and lost to, Shang-Chi and Captain America on many occasions.  He mastery of knives, bows, staves, maces, guns, spears, nunchaku, and shuriken did not seem to help him at all.  He is also an expert marksmen, but clearly not as good as others such as Bullseye or Deadpool.  He was teamed up with Batroc the Leaper for a while (who you might know from his brief fight in the newer Captain America movie) and was often teamed up with him in brawls.

During the super hero Civil War, he was captured by the Thunderbolts and forced to work with them, although did not last long on the team.  Currently, I am unaware of where he is, or what he has been up to.  He is a character that I feel could be used as a larger threat than he has been.  I feel like he is too basic though for mainstream continuity and therefore will always be regulated to a loser that appears for a one or two page fight.  I think he could do what Taskmaster did, and train troops for others.  After all, the MU is full of henchmen, and it seems like an army of Weapon Masters might be able to take down a super hero.  Food for though, Marvel!

Thanks for journeying with me through the alphabet and through the Z-list characters that populate the MU.

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The Best Of The Worst (Ulysses Soloman Archer)

With Marvel an DC totaling approximately 17,000 characters between them there are bound to be some duds. From such big names as Dazzler, to some lesser known heroes such as Phil Grayfield aka The NFL Superpro, this is a celebration of all heroes (and villains) terrible. I will be scouring the internets to find the best of the worst. I have found many lists compiling the worst heroes of all time and there are many similarities between them. One of the most common that I found was this man.

US_1_Vol_1_1

Ulysses Soloman Archer

Marvel Comics

First Appearance: US 1 Vol. 1 #1 May 1983

While “researching” Mr. Archer, my first stop was the Marvel Comics Database where I found very little about this A-List character. The “history” section is blank, and the “powers and abilities” section is blank. There was however some information on the US 1 page. Very little information, but some nonetheless. The information on the Marvel page consisted mostly of a list of supporting characters which include Poppa Wheelie, Wide-Load Annie, and Ulysses’ brother Jefferson Hercules Archer who is apparently also a villain by the name of Highwayman. Other than this list the only other information was about the team who worked on the book who  are probably all super proud of this.

Over at Comic Vine I found much more on USA. Im going to refer to him as USA from now on because I don’t feel like writing his entire name. USA and his brother Jefferson were living out their childhood dreams of becoming truck drivers, when a group of aliens came to Earth looking to recruit USA so that they could use him as a starship pilot. Truck drivers would be my first choice for starship pilots too. Don’t bother trying to get jet pilots or anything, truckers will do just fine. Since the aliens are racist and think that all humans look alike, they mistakenly recruit Jefferson and outfit his truck with advanced technology. He names his truck The Blackrig. Now with his new kick ass truck, Jefferson is worried that the aliens will realize that they recruited the wrong guy. His solution? Kill USA. Jefferson and The Blackrig drive USA off of a cliff, which severely injures USA but does not kill him. Now the aliens for some reason realize that they made a mistake in their recruitment and take USA to a hospital, where his shattered skull is replaced with a metal one that can receive CB transmissions. What kind of hospital installs CB skulls? Anyway, after that the back story gets a little fuzzy. It seems like the aliens give USA a high tech truck and then there’s a lot of racing between him and his brother.

I’m going to try not to spend a ton of time breaking down these terrible characters and their stories. Marvel obviously didn’t care a whole lot about this guy, so why should I? The US 1 series ran for 12 issues, and USA himself has been featured in 40 total issues. His cameos include appearances in The Sensational She-Hulk, The Avengers and The Infinity Gauntlet, and a couple Deadpool Team-ups. In an appearance in New Avengers, USA applied to be the nanny of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ baby, Danielle, but did not get the job. Stick with trucking/starshiping buddy.

-A

WIP Episode 11 – Amazing Spider Mania pt 2 (What If Podcast) on YouTube!

In this episode of the What If Podcast, Andrew the Giant returns and I struggle to explain the Spider-Man “Clone Saga” in all its convoluted glory. What if Spider-Man’s clone lived? What if Scarlet Spider killed Spider-Man? He almost did!

The WIP is featured on iTunes:

http://goo.gl/9HBzKz

Stitcher:
http://goo.gl/K64cKZ

Twitter: @theslimjames or @Giant_Size

and theslimjames.com!

Chew #1

chew

Hey there and welcome back to another Free Comics Now! review, courtesy, of course, of Comixology and my tablet.  If you’re an avid reader of this column, you’ll note that I’ve gone from 2 a week to only 1, on Tuesdays.  Hopefully next week we’ll get back on track and double the reviews again, but for now, I can only offer my sincere apologies.

With the latest news that Chew will become an animated series, I thought it would be a good time to look at the first issue, which is available for free.  I think I bought it a year or so ago for a dollar (the physical copy), and now I feel like such an idiot.  Oh well.  Still an interesting thing.  Chew is by John Layman and Rob Guillory and is one of many fine comics put out by Image.

Tony Chu is a cibopathic, which means when he eats food, he can get a sense of the entire history of what he eats.  So he sees plants being grown and harvested, and animals growing up and slaughtered.  However, beets apparently give off no memories, so he tends to chew those the most.  He is a vice cop with a stereotypical partner.  Stereotypical here meaning “the complete opposite of him.”  But it’s not drugs they are looking to bust people on, it’s chicken.  Chicken is illegal, a fact that we learn in a flashback to Chu’s brother, a former TV chef who had a meltdown on air.

The two are in a sting operation when they become interrupted by a FDA agent who explains how things really are working.  I won’t go into all the details, as it is a very intriguing book, but it ends with Chu biting the face of a serial killer.  Good stuff.

The artwork is nice.  I like it a lot.  Clean lines and not over detailed, but expressions and emotions still come across easily. It is colored in lots of browns and reds, which many be a reference to chicken meat, but could just be this issue.  Overall, a very nice start to what I’m sure is an interesting series.  I would like to pick up some more of this if the opportunity arises.

Y is for Yo Yo

marvel.wikia.com

marvel.wikia.com

Yo Yo Rodriguez, or Slingshot as she goes by, was a part of the Secret Warriors, a team of unknowns recruited by Nick Fury to help him take down Hydra.  If you haven’t read Secret Warriors, I highly recommend it.  It ran for 28 issues and is a great example of Jonathan Hickman’s storytelling ability.

Yo Yo is the daughter of the Griffin.  If you don’t know who the Griffin is, here’s a picture to help yourself to.

marvel.wikia.com

marvel.wikia.com

Yeah, kind of weird.  I’m not entirely sure how he had a kid, but hey, who am I to judge?

Anyways, like the rest of the team, Yo Yo was brought into the fold and battled against Hydra as well as Osborn.  She has super speed but also can slingshot her body back to where she began running, which seems like it might not be helpful in some situations, but would be nice at others.  While in a battle with Gorgon, she had her arms cut off.  Luckily, being friends with Nick Fury means that robot parts are never too far away and that it’s heard to truly die (see Agents of SHIELD as an example).  During her recovery, she became very close to Stonewall, her teammate and the son of the Absorbing Man.

Nowadays, the Secret Warriors are dissolved and most seem to have fallen through the cracks, or died.  Hopefully the rest make a reappearance at some point as they were an excellent team and a great example of new blood that the MU needs.

WIP Episode 10 – Amazing Spider Mania pt 1 (What If Podcast) on YouTube!

Andrew the Giant returns to the studio as we discuss Spider-Man’s origins and the Spider-Man movies in this episode of the What If Podcast! What if Spider-Man never became a crimefighter? What if Aunt May died instead of Uncle Ben? Things!

The WIP is featured on iTunes:

http://goo.gl/9HBzKz

Stitcher:
http://goo.gl/K64cKZ

Twitter: @theslimjames or @Giant_Size

and theslimjames.com!

The Monday Morning Quarter-Bin – The Venom 2099 Saga (Part 2 of 5)

Last time on the Monday Morning Quarter-Bin, we took a look at the first part of the Venom 2099 story arc running through Spider-Man 2099 35-38. Issue 35 introduced the character of Venom 2099, and was an issue and character that had intrigued me since I got it as a child when it was new. Sadly, my youth caused that issue’s cover to disintegrate, and I never bothered with the subsequent issues. Now, though, I’m righting the wrong; I’ve found all four issues of the story arc and we’re at Spider-Man 2099, number 36!

The cover I have. Variants!! (image from Marvel.Wikia)

First off, the issue makes no bones about the hype surrounding the Venom 2099 character; the demonic looking black and white creature is full and center, with his own name in the “title section” of the cover, relegating Spider-Man 2099 to a small blurb underneath. I suppose if you have a Spider-Man alternate universe series, the introduction of that universe’s Venom, Spider-Man’s “negative”, antithesis, the “anti-Spider-Man”, should be a big deal, and this is giving the character a strong push rather than wasting what could be a breakout character.

 

Issue 35 introduced Venom 2099, in a somewhat mysterious fashion, and as alluded to at the end of that issue, the next issue picks up with a full on battle between Spidey and this newfound nemesis. As was implied in the previous issue, Venom 2099 is surmised to “secrete a skin-eating acid”, which plays into his jagged, caustic look. After a few blows, Venom leaves the body he had been possessing to leap to a doctor, leaving behind a smoking, raw body in its wake as Spidey describes “the stench of burnt flesh”. Clearly this is taking the symbiote possession to another level. Venom goes all Plastic Man on us, turning his arms into wacky weapons like a mace and whip, before knocking Spidey out of the highrise medical facility they had been fighting in. After creating some separation, Venom is confronted by the futuristic police/security force present in the 2099 universe (SHIELD?), and Venom quickly makes short work of them, this time with some of their own guns (What if Venom 2099 Possessed Punisher 2099? – Gold, that’s what).

 

Regrouping, Miguel O’Hara is now in charge of Alchemax after Tyler Stone was taken out (alluded to in last issue, a longer arcing story that extends beyond this). Miguel calls off the dogs on Spider-Man, his alter ego, and asks for historical references to “Venom”. Then, Miguel O’Hara’s mom commits suicide, again probably part of the larger arcing story I’m not privy too. Still, seeing some older lady put a gun underneath her jaw and do the deed was quite shocking.

 

We end this issue with Venom 2099 tracking down Miguel O’Hara at the Alchemax offices, tearing through staff members and finally confronting Miguel with a Sophie’s choice over the lives of Xina and Dana, Miguel’s dueling love interests: “You see these two? One of ’em gets to live…on your say so…while the other dies. You’ve got five seconds to decide…or I’ll just kill them…both. Choose.” An effective cliffhanger, because I’m officially sucked into this saga. What does Venom 2099 have to do with the original Venom? What is his beef with Miguel O’Hara and Spider-Man? How does he know the secret identity? Can Miguel save both Dana and Xina? All these questions and more, same Spider-Time, same Spider-Website (hey, a pun!). It’ll be Spider-Man 2099 issue 37, and it’s gonna be awesome.

 

(PS, as far as critiquing, I find the writing to be compelling, with a mixture of personal drama and super-hero action, but the art in this issue was a little clunkier than in the previous issues).

X is for X-Ray

marvel.wikia.com

marvel.wikia.com

X-Ray is a member of the U-Foes, a villainous group with origins tied to the original Fantastic Four.  They tried their best to be bombarded with cosmic rays, and succeeded in getting more than the FF had.  He is made out to be the Human Torch of the group, but it is worth noting that their powers are vastly different, and X-Ray has a master’s degree in engineering, which I think is far above the education of Johnny Storm.

X-Ray has control over radiation.  He cannot turn his body into its normal form, but is instead is a living energy field of radiation.  He can transform, emit, and absorb all sorts of types of radiation, and is intangible and invisible at will.  However, it appears that some things, such as lead, or Thor’s hammer, can still harm him in this state.

He has battled Hulk and Thor alongside his team, but always come up short.  However, more recently the U-Foes registered as super heroes with the government and helped Osborn when he was in charge of SHIELD (which he renamed HAMMER).  They attacked Volstagg, an Asgardian which resulted in a devastating catastrophe and was the catalyst for the Marvel event Siege.  Since then, I have not been sure what they are up to, but I would guess they are still lurking around somewhere.

Rewinding the Week (4.27.2014)

So another week has passed us by, and here again to give the highlights of television as I saw them, is none other than myself.  Enjoy!

Game of Thrones:  Honestly, if you’re not watching this show, I don’t know what is wrong with you.  Unless you’re blind, in which case I apologize.  The action continues after the death of Joffrey the week before and things continue to heat up.  So much happens that it can be hard to keep track.  It was interesting seeing the new Daario act like a pretty big badass, but still, he doesn’t look the part enough for me.  Maybe next season he’ll be recast again.  Still, awesome stuff.

Agents of SHIELD: A real-life supervillain, Blackout, was on the show, as one of the many people who escaped from the Fridge.  Nice to see some powers in use, even if they aren’t very flashy.  In fact, these ones were the opposite of flashy, but still, nice work.  Patton Oswald, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Sorry, spoiler back there I guess.  This show keeps upping the stress levels that I feel when I watch it.  Yes, I know some of the names and can predict some of what happen, but there is so much that is unknown.  May’s mom?  What team is she from?  I’m guessing she is from the SPEAR, the eastern hemisphere version of SHIELD.  Or who knows?  Maybe she is AIM.

Bob’s Burgers: The only Sunday evening cartoon that I think was out this week.  Still, never a disappointment coming from them.  A lump of disgusting whale poop perfume washes ashore and the fight to get the money is on!

Arrow: A shocking death.  I feel that this season seems to be dragging a bit though.  Let’s just get on with the huge fight already.

The Following: Did I even watch this?  If so, it was unmemorable.

Anyways, short week I guess.  I did finish Heroes, season 1, and I must say, it was a well put together show back then.  I’m still excited to watch season 2, as I like Hiro back in the past, but after that, I don’t know if I’ll be able to re-watch the rest.

Also, I finally watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Awesome stuff.  No real surprises, except for one.  In that movie, and in Agents of SHIELD, people I would not expect, based on their names, turn out to be the traitors.  I just find that weird.  Pierce, Garret, and Sitwell were all very loyal SHIELD agents.  Just an odd fact.

WIP Episode 9 – Age of Ultron Captain America (What If Podcast) on YouTube!

The WIP returns to discuss Marvel’s latest What If offering, Age of Ultron 4 – What if Captain America were wiped from history? I also discuss Americana in superhero design, and the Punisher!

The WIP is featured on iTunes:

http://goo.gl/9HBzKz

Stitcher:
http://goo.gl/K64cKZ

Twitter: @theslimjames or @Giant_Size

and theslimjames.com!